The Kidney TRUST

Volunteers Fuel Expansion of the Kidney TRUST’s CKD Screening Program

After getting off the ground in October of 2007, the Kidney TRUST’s chronic kidney disease (“CKD”) rapid-screening program grew quickly in 2008, with over 5,000 people screened for CKD over the course of the year.  This expansion was aided in no small measure by volunteers who have donated their time and expertise to the effort.

Etta Carter

Etta Carter is a case in point.  Etta, who has four children and two grandchildren, lives in Arlington, Texas where she works as Centralized Programs Manager for DaVita, Inc.    She’s worked for DaVita for over 12 years in various positions that have led to close contact with dialysis patients.  She’s also been personally affected by kidney disease – her grandmother, ex-father-in-law, and cousin all have CKD.

Etta’s volunteer activities with the TRUST have included organizing other volunteers, registering participants, and discussing results and providing educational information to those who have undergone the screening process.  She also has taken the initiative to recruit Spanish-language translators from the University of Texas at Arlington to provide support at health fair events.

Revkah Balingit, Program Director for the TRUST, can’t say enough about the positive impact that volunteers like Etta have had in the expansion of the rapid-screening program:  “Etta is amazing – she has jumped into a whole series of events in the Dallas area over the last year and a half and made a tremendous contribution to our efforts.  She is so generous with her time and effective in bringing in other people to help – we literally couldn’t do the work that we do without the help of our volunteers.”

Etta is clear that what motivates her to volunteer for TRUST screening activities is the opportunity to do something about preventing the onset of kidney disease: “I want to protect people from ever having to sit in that chair and receive dialysis.”

Etta has also been a market lead for the DaVita KAT Walk Across America for the last two years.  Screening was part of the 2008 KAT Walk in Dallas, and Etta was instrumental in recruiting and organizing DaVita volunteers for the event.  She also participated in several health fairs in the Dallas area, including several targeted at low-income Hispanic populations.  Hispanics, like African-Americans and Native Americans, are at greater risk for developing CKD than other ethnic groups.

One of the things that surprises Etta in doing the education associated with screening is that primary care physicians don’t tell people more about how their high blood pressure and/or diabetes put them at greater risk for CKD.  According to Etta, most people don’t seem to know what will happen to their kidneys if they don’t change their lifestyles or follow their treatment regime.  Most people she speaks with are surprised that CKD could be caused by diseases that they already have.

Etta is especially enthusiastic about the possibility of providing education and prevention messages to people at a young age so that they can more easily do something about their kidney health.   She notes that: “If you can reach that person at risk for CKD in the early stages, it’s easier to turn them around and get them focused on a healthy lifestyle that can postpone the onset or perhaps head off CKD altogether.”

According to Etta, one of the gratifying things about health fairs targeted at lower income communities is that the message reaches people who might otherwise not be screened for CKD.  The free rapid-screening program offers them the opportunity to find out where they stand and seek follow-up help if they need it.  She states that, “It’s especially great if you can reach people who don’t need medication yet, since they can change the course of the disease with exercise and diet.”

Etta says that she emphasizes to people at great risk the necessity to make CKD screening a regular part of their health regime.  “Get screened again next year.  The result I’m giving you today should be viewed as a baseline, but given your history you need to be vigilant and re-screened on at least an annual basis.”